Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Trip Planning

I’ve decided to dedicate this post to trip planning. I honestly believe one of the biggest ways to save money and time (which equals money in my book) is with a good plan. Note: I’ll admit upfront for my “Type B” people that this blog post probably isn’t for you. Sorry. I’ll make it up to you.

I think of trips as an investment. They make us better, happier, and enriched people if we’re lucky. And luxury travel, even on the cheap, is a big investment. So a HUGE pet peeve of mine is spending thousands of dollars on a vacation and then getting to your destination and wasting the little time you have there figuring out what to do. You wouldn’t buy a washer/dryer or plasma TV without doing some level of research, would you?

I’m all for being flexible – we’ve had great experiences by being willing to get great advice and changing our plans as we go along. I also try not to be TOO structured or over plan and to give everyone in my group choices, but I REALLY need to know my options before I hit my destination.

Some trips require more planning than others. All a beach trip requires for me is deciding what swimsuit to wear and where to eat dinner. But I’ve learned that we have the best time for more involved trips when we’ve done a bit of research ahead of time. Places like Walt Disney World (especially during peak crowd seasons) require a decent of amount of planning and structure, but that time is paid back ten-fold in terms of less time spent in long, hot lines with tired cranky people we don’t know, lol. And it allows us to come back from what could be a very tiring vacation very happy and relatively rested and relaxed.

Here are three things you can easily research online that make a BIG difference on a trip:

Dining –as I have family and friends who are vegetarian, considering where and how we eat is always a biggie for me. Do we always stick to the plan – NO! We quite often change our plans. But I have a good handle on which fish are kosher and can ask about vegetarian dining in 3 languages.

Tours – are you going to do a lot of walking? Will you need different clothing and most importantly good SHOES? How much are tours going to cost? I must be the only person in the universe who didn’t know when I went on my first cruise that excursions and SODA were extra. I thought once you got to the boat everything was pretty much free. I was disabused of that notion minutes after boarding.

Weather – have you checked the forecast preceding you trip and considered indoor and outdoor activities based on weather? Nothing’s worse than getting stuck outside in inclement weather. I learned last Fall that packing flip flops (my shoes of choice on vacation) can work against you in 50 degree weather! I now own the most amazing pair of flat shoes EVER made (God bless Clarks) that are cute enough and kept my feet covered and VERY comfortable this Spring in Barcelona.

My TripTip":
A good plan goes a long way in saving you time and money on trips. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Google is your friend. Lonely Planet, guide books, unofficial guides, online forums and articles are abundant for most destinations – so whatever it is, wherever you go, spend time making sure your time is well spent.